Saturday, June 30, 2012


Untitled (squares #13), 2012, acrylic and oil on muslin and canvas, 33 x 33 x 2 1/2 inches

Robert Hoerlein is one of the Midwest's best kept secrets. A long-time resident of the small town (or more appropriately, art colony) of Fairfield, Iowa, Bob has been doing his own thing far below the radar of most of the art world. I had the chance to visit Bob at his studio, a small railroad freight depot shed that he recently renovated. It was great to see his work in progress which consisted of paintings, along with experimental pieces made of wire, muslin, and paint.

Just some of the artifacts on Bob's studio wall.

Some of Bob's newest pieces made with wire and layers of muslin and paint.

Bob sometimes places text on his walls as he works.

The exterior of this studio still resembles the railroad freight shed that it used to be. With Bob's carpentry experience, the interior was transformed into this bright working space. He even modified the rafters to allow for more room above.

The artist with chunks of walnut that will someday become table legs.

This is exactly how close the studio is to the rail line. The picture of the car that's pinned to the wall shows a piece by Hada (formerly known as Don Potts). Hada had moved to Fairfield some years back and had been an integral part of the art community here. He died of lymphoma on 1/7/11. That same sculpture, "My First Car" appeared in numerous art history textbooks and magazines over the years. 

Painter's Bread Interview with Robert Hoerlein:

PB:  How do you view the role of painting today?

RH:  Painting with actual paint seems old-fashioned. Today, so much work is created and shown in newer media—particularly electronic digital media.

So why paint with paint now? Consider why painting came about in the first place. Drawing, usually (mostly) monochromatic, immediately expanded into painting by including color. Painting was always the quickest, least mediated way to represent something from the mind, an object, or an abstract idea or a feeling—as quick as thought, nearly.

Now, in this century, a photo is quicker than a painting; but much more mediated by the technical devices involved. And in some sense dependent on an external subject, or setting, or light condition, or computer program.

Some of the electronic work is like painting, just with different tools and techniques. Purely computer-generated art can be exactly painting, with the added elements of time and motion. Very exciting.

The magic of plain old painting is that you can do it right now, right in this moment, almost anywhere, and with very little between you and it. And personally, I like what messy liquids do when you push them around.

PB:  What kinds of things inform your work?

RH:  Embedded in my paintings is always some reference to the natural world and especially the interactions of people with nature. Natural processes and working processes leave traces—these are the building blocks of my paintings.

PB:  Tell us a little about your painting process and the different supports that you work on and how you build them.

RH:  I make all kinds of things to paint on.  I regard the painting first as a physical object. Then I paint on it. I usually seek the point where the physical object just gives way to an illusion of some painterly space.

I’m currently building totally three-dimensional objects to paint on—built out of fabric, wire, wood, foam, glue and acrylic polymers. Newspaper, plastic wrap, plaster –anything that helps me get the shape. I'm also building some shaped slabs of laminated fabric over foam.

PB:  Who do you view as inspiring or important when looking through the history of Art?

RH:  So many, at so many different times of my life............Michelangelo, Titian, Cellini, El Greco, Bellini, Zurbaran.........Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt.......Turner......Manet, Malevich.......Bierstadt, Church, Moran.

Pollock, Newman.............Warhol, Freud..........Basquiat, Bleckner, Clemente, Kiefer, Hodgkin, Paladino, Salle, Schnabel, Twombly...........Kapoor, Neshat, Richter, Hirst, Laib, Ai Wei Wei.

So many more that I can't think of right now.

PB:  What kinds of future projects do you have planned, painting and otherwise?

RH:  I always continue my search; it seems like I circle around the same things year after year, where the material just starts to become illusion. Larger slab-like paintings this year, large hanging objects in groups, and the newest "humanlike" series of floor-mounted painted sculptures.